Environmental Malpractice, Part 6: Free Joseph Benson

profile of anonymous negro
I put a lot of photos around the first false arrest - Medicom of Egypt, 2008 (prior post).  Jim Puckett's quotations framing the discussion of Egyptian imports, to the Arab magazine, put Basel Action Network's fingerprints on the smoking gun of "e-waste enforcement" to muzzle affordable electronics used by the students behind the Arab Spring.

The second framing victim is the Nigeria's "Hurricane Carter", Joseph Benson.  I don't have pictures.  But since Jim was kind enough to give me credit at the E-Waste Summit in Las Vegas three weeks ago, for having led him to Lagos, and since he was good enough to put the newspaper articles about the arrest of Mr. Benson into his presentation, and to quote Emile Lindemulder's Interpol report implying Mr. Benson's activities were "organized crime"...  I will use one of his, in "fair use".

In showing the photo below at the Vegas conference, and giving me credit for his being here, I have the right to rebut the "dirty little secret" Puckett says this photo is evidence of.

He thought his photo was evidence that Mr. Benson's arrest, which he showed news coverage of, was environmental justice.  Except for one thing - the only thing we see Mr. Benson was "guilty" of is recycling while black.

Take a closer look.

These are all uniform.  They are the type of small TV that are popular in slums, where people have electricity, have broadcast TV, but don't have big living rooms.  The market for this size of TV is so large that entire factories are devoted to transform used computer monitors to manufacture this specific size of television.   They represent less than 5% of the material that comes to Good Point Recycling.  This is not random as is television e-waste.

Jim said he took this photo himself.  He describes it as illegal, and shows photos in the same presentation of "Away is a Place", an Op-Editorial he published as the cover piece for Pieter Hugo's book:
This material made its arrival on African shores just some days earlier as cargo inside 40-foot intermodal corrugated containers — the shifting bricks of globalized trade turned techno-trash haulers. Around 400 of these, each containing about 600 computers or monitors arrive each month at the Port of Tema, Ghana, from the UK, USA, Canada and countless other rich and developed countries.  They may find a quick stay on the floors and shelves of hundreds of second-hand markets throughout Accra. But those that do not sell — about half, even if they work perfectly —are then picked up by small boys pushing heavy carts and hauled several miles to the outskirts of town, to be thrown away — to Agbogbloshie’s scavengers.  
About half... even if they work perfectly.  An amazing claim.  It means that even if Joseph Benson did test them, as he claimed, that the "crime" of exporting used TVs to be burned by dirty little children, is one Benson was guilty of.  No matter that Benson paid for transport, paid for TVs, paid for labor, he was willing to lose money, it seems, just to make e-waste recycling in England... fail.

Look, here's another container being unloaded, filmed by Greenpeace, which took Jim's 2005 visit and improved on it by tracking Joseph Benson's container to Lagos.  They sabotaged a black TV, put a GPS tracker in it, gave it to Benson's people, and PROVED that this was e-Waste!  [APPLAUSE]  This was the "sting" at the front and center of the UK Independent and Guardian articles Jim Puckett referred to in his Powerpoint.

From The Independent, which today reported that the settlement (paying 11,000 lbs) as a "conviction" - an admission that they tricked the African Benson into buying the TV.
The involvement of Mr Benson, who is a Nigerian national, and his company in e-waste export was exposed by The Independent in 2009 after a tracking device was placed inside a television which had been deliberately damaged beyond use.
Nevermind that 85-90% are legitimate reuse... Nevermind that store returns to Wal-Mart are 11% of electronics.  By this logic, China exported "ewaste" to Walmart.

BAN has numerous articles which they claim a kind of perverse credit for.  Here is one by Germany's DW (English version).  I choose it because it has Indonesia extraction harm in the same series as the defamation of Ghana's reuse business.  There are dozens of dozens of scalps on BAN's wall, stories they got a journalist to buy into.   They have plenty of third parties clubbing the baby seals for them.

But in Vegas, and in the articles I cite, Jim describes his first hand discovery of the unload as raw e-waste, and that's what it looks like to the untrained eye.  Here is a photo taken from one of my typical truckloads that same year.  Notice the variety of shapes, colors, sizes, and age of equipment.  Just what kind of "e-waste collection event" turned up an entire containerload of black 17 television screens in the photo above?

Here is what a raw e-waste collection event looks like (from Vermont).  Basel Action Network claims that "all too often" recyclers like me simply load this material onto an export container, and ship it to Africa, with Benson acting as a "broker" or "middleman" to an illegal dumping scheme.

Does this collection look much like what's being unloaded in Africa?

I used the photo above of the mixed loads to help defend the third wrongfully accused E-Waste exporter in April 2010 ("Plot Thickens:  Alleged Indonesian E-Waste Dumping").  Jim Puckett of BAN privately conceded the point, but said his opposition to the Indonesia factory was that they performed elective upgrade - replacing working parts with superior newer parts - and that therefore the replaced parts were "waste".  What?  You didn't hear he made that concession?  Neither did anyone else.

But the exact same logic applies to the Nigerian containerload.  How could Joseph Benson at BJ Electronics manage to collect only uniformly sized, black televisions, with RCA jacks?  And why are the ones photographed at the dump in such fewer quantity than the hundreds of containerloads Puckett describes?  Do we really see half of the black TVs being burned at Agbogbloshie?   Or do we see the town dump for a city of millions of residents, who watch TV, generate their own e-waste, and take the time to reuse things like CRTs that Americans and Europeans replace for fashionable flat screens?

If BAN wants to convict Joseph Benson using photos, let's look at the photos before sentencing.

Look closely at the picture of the burning device below.  Does this look like one from the container?  Or does it look like the one from Prince Nico Mbarga's 1977 television?  And is there any evidence of 50% of 400 containerloads of black TVs in any of the photos?  Or does the absense of ANY black TVs in ANY of the dump photos say something about profiling?

To the trained eye, uniform black televisions (same size and grade) look more like what Joseph Benson said he was doing than they look like BAN says Joseph Benson was doing.    How come all the TVs burned by black people are white / beige, and all the TVs being unloaded by black people are black?

But let's go further than establishing "reasonable doubt" of the Exporter's Guilt.   A lot of people would find that BAN has made an honest mistake, or that the risk still appears worthy of new laws.  If only there was a source of statistical data... one which would justify the counter-claim of defamation, or "Environmental Malpractice".

Now, who does Puckett think is a credible source of information?  The UNEP, of course.  From Jim's Pieter Hugo article:
"The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that we now produce 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste per year globally. Put another way, that is over 1 billion pounds. Of that amount, 6,500 metric tonnes are estimated* to be arriving each month at the Port of Tema in Ghana, where much then finds its way to Agbogbloshie."
(*footnote:..."are estimated", that's known as "passive voice".  It implies that the UNEP is the source of the estimate.  No.  The UNEP is the source of the generation estimate, the 50 million pounds.  The UNEP also clearly says that most of what is disposed of in China and Africa was GENERATED there!  So what Jim has done is similar to what he did with the "80%" statistic which he made up out of thin air ten years ago.  He gave that statistic to USA Today, then he quoted USA Today as the source of the statistic.  Here he refers to UNEP's generation statistic, but "are estimated" apparently refers to HIS estimate).

What does the UNEP Report say?

Well, in response to the 2009 arrest of Joseph Benson, and Emile's Interpol "Organized Crime" report, the UNEP followed the trail of Joseph Benson's exports to Nigeria and Ghana.

From page 25 of the UNEP Ghana E-Waste Assessment:

"About 70% of the imports arrive in a working condition;
About 20% can be serviced (repaired/refurbished) to get them functioning;
About 10% do not function."

Discounting some of the goods which would not last long, the report rounds the figures up in the Executive Summary:
The EEE imports into Ghana in 2009 added up to 215'000 tons and a per capita import of 9kg. About 30% comprised of new products and 70% second hand EEE. Around 15% of the second hand imports was estimated to be unsellable (i.e. would not respond to power, broken or outdated), a significant portion of which was destined directly to informal recycling. 
A significant portion of the 15%... that's what the UNEP says went to the dump.

And here I showed you from BAN's own blog that they READ the report and felt obligated to comment on it.  They try to spin it a bit (saying that the refurbished portion counts as "waste"), but they already agreed that Joseph Benson's exports were more good than bad.

That 85% of the used electronics imported into Ghana are reused.   The UNEP examined 279 containerloads, like the one in Jim's photo.  And the UNEP found 70% were fully functional, and an additional 15% were repaired.  And the UNEP confirmed that over 80% of the material filmed by Pieter Hugo, David Fedele, Ifixit's Kyle Wiens, Jim Puckett, and other "poverty porn" photographers, was GENERATED by Africans in Africa.

Here is a shot of PCs taken by a university researcher in Ghana.  And the UNEP Ghana report maps the movement of all of the goods from exporters like Benson, shows which neighborhoods the containers are unloaded into, where the slums are where people work on the repair, what percentage of total computer use comes from used product vs. new (the entire internet is supported by used equipment).  And a year ago BAN acknowledged reading this UNEP report and said it was the best available.

People trade in their used electronics to the second hand shops in Lagos and Accra.   That's why (as the UNEP maps geographically), the containers are unloaded at the shops.  It is a negative sort - pulling the ones out that are damaged in shipping - not a "positive sort" (dumping 80% waste and pulling good ones out).  If it was the latter, the containers would go to the dump and the good stuff would then travel to the shops.  Toyota dealerships have entire used car lots.  They don't import used cars, they sell new cars and take used ones as trade-ins.  This is fairly simple logic if we can keep from being blinded by the flash bulbs surrounding  Pieter Hugo's hyena-toting-ewaste-people.

SO BAN has read the report.  They have commented on the report.  And they have used the report in their slide show.  IN LAS VEGAS, why is Jim Puckett still showing the 2005 shots and the 2009 arrest of Joseph Benson and quoting from the laughingstock 2009 Interpol report?

Here's the resource which BAN earns money from:  SCARY BLACK PEOPLE.

White guilt.  Fear of toxics.  And plenty of the Puckett ju-ju.  The intro to Pieter Hugo's photo book is sprinkled with Halloween Africa.

"Stone age..."
"Witches brew..."

Puckett and Hugo pull at our heartstrings - and our pursestrings.  But they don't share the income with the Africans they photograph.

What about Joseph Benson?

I am not simply accusing Jim Puckett of falsely accusing the man.  But a year after Mike Enberg commented on the UNEP report which mostly exonerated Joseph Benson (and makes the point that boycotts will make the legitimate trade harder) Jim is still showing powerpoint presentations about the man's arrest, he's still putting the photos of the guy's containers on his web page.  He's still posting as the expert.  Hell, at the E-Scrap conference he went so far as to say, to a group of hundreds of people, that Basel Action Network is the ONLY CREDIBLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION.  He cites the UNEP to suite himself, but...:

When I asked him in Vegas to comment on Joseph Benson, he said "I'm not familiar with that name".

He shows articles about the man's arrest, he shows photos of the containers, and says he's the foremost expert.  But he doesn't even know the name of the accused.

He moved the gravestones, but he didn't move the graves.

If I have said something defamatory or false in my blog, I want to know it, and I want to apologize, and I want to correct it immediately.  This false information about Africans is not something Jim Puckett is slow to discover.  I told him this back in 2005.  We were both interviewed in NIH by Charles W. Schmidt.  Published in April 2006, I gave my statistics (rewritten in Monkeys Running the Environmental Zoo), and Puckett gave his version.  Like Discovery News, Schmidt split the difference.  And that's what's happening in the UNEP report... despite their own NUMBERS showing the innocence of the importers, the authors are far too careful not to apologize for the skeletons, ghouls, and witch doctors of the "informal sector".

IMHO, Jim doesn't want to correct himself because he doesn't know how to make money without the poverty porn.

I don't agree with everything in the Ghana E-Waste Report.  At times, I find it to be influenced by BAN.  They seem at times to make excuses for finding things which contradict BAN.  And the photos on the cover are all primitive burning practices.  But the report is the first major study to go to the heart of the dispute between James Puckett and Robin Ingenthron in Charles Schmidt's NIH study.  Oscar A. Orta, one of the Fair Trade Recycling representative at the UNEP Nairobi Conference, said that the folks from STEP and UNEP told him "we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for BAN".

They meant it in a good way.  But that's what Hamdy said as his containers were seized in Egypt in 2008, and that's what Joseph Benson can say from his prison cell 2009.  Tomorrow, I'll close with the biggest defamation fraud of the lot - the Indonesia Massacre of 2010.

There can only be two possible rational responses.  Basel Action Network, if it is a legitimate 501-c3 non-profit charitable organization should have a board of directors, has a duty.

PUBLICLY APOLOGIZE TO "Hurricane Carter" Joseph Benson.

FIRE JIM PUCKETT   I would have fired him as soon as the 2011 Ghana Report came out.  But if he is STILL on the speaking circuit, STILL defaming Joseph Benson, Hamdy Moussa, and Gordon Chiu, there can be little surprise that they have lawsuits from Peter Kopcych, Brian Brundage, and have Donald Summers bombs going off in Chicago Patch.  They have a serious cancer, far worse than anything Dan Rather or Richard Nixon or Elliot Spitzer, Tom DeLay, or other famous resignation givers has to apologize for.  Appoint Mike Enberg acting director, and let's arrange an "Apology Tour" of the factories like the ones in Indonesia (in my next Part 7 of Environmental Malpractice Blogs).

Does my defense of Hamdy, Joseph, and Gordon mean I'm "attacking" Jim?  I don't even dislike Jim.   He's a very amicable guy, who truly cares about poor people being exposed to toxics.  He and I are similar in that we both found a way to earn a living and put food on the table while advocating for people we care about.  I truly mean that.   But if forced to choose between Jim and the Geeks of Color, he has unfortunately forced my hand.  Fair Trade Recycling is a constructive solution.  Bans on trade between rich and poor will not benefit the poor.

In my Conclusion, I will provide evidence that Jim Puckett fully knows that most of the e-waste at the dump is generated by Africans, and most of the stuff imported is good.   Because I found something else in Las Vegas.  A PowerPoint presentation written by Jim, one that we didn't see.  It was on the laptop I loaded my presentation onto.  And it is proof that Jim Puckett knows I'm telling the truth in this blog, and he is working in secret to come up with a way to roll out the information.   And yes... I took a copy.  It's on my hard drive, and it proves without a doubt that though Jim may not know the names of the defamed international geeks Hamdy, Joseph, and Gordon, that he knows the statistics say I'm telling the truth about them.  He just hasn't had the courage or the time to redesign the BAN website.

I will deliver proof that Jim agrees that these people are not primitive, wire burning, stone age people, that he knows how much money they pay to import the material, and he is working on coming up with a middle ground between the BAN.org website and my Good Point Ideas blog.

Too late, Jim.

He must go.  The only other responsible alternative is a class action suit.  I am hopeful that Jim will one day take my intervention as an act of caring.  I have put myself and my business at risk, and I have laid down my arms when defamed as "crazy" and a liar, or outliar, by Jim's hired gun Donald Summers.  Though Donald threatened to sue me for far less, I'm not suing BAN.

But I'm calling on them to stop defaming people, to disavow the Pieter Hugo exoticism.  If they cannot financially make the transition, then just go out of business.

Fire Jim now.  Then, let's have a meeting, myself, some university researchers, some Geeks of color (Souleymane, Wahab, Hamdy, Fung, even Joseph Benson), with the authors of the report.  I will pay for the flight to Middlebury for the following authors of the Ghana Report:

Yaw Amoyaw-Osei - Green Advocacy Ghana
Obed Opoku Agyekum - Green Advocacy Ghana
John A. Pwamang - Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana
Esther Mueller - Empa, Switzerland
Raphael Fasko - Empa, Switzerland
Mathias Schluep - Empa, Switzerland

By the way, this part of the UNEP Report is wrong.  Not only can the statement in bold NOT "be assumed", I can demonstrate it is wrong.  Ask IFIXIT, or NESDA, or go to REPAIRFAQ.org
"About 20 percent of the imported EEE has to be repaired or refurbished to get them functioning. It can be assumed that these devices on average have a shorter lifespan compared to new equipment or second hand equipment arriving in working condition and therefore lead to ever increasing large stocks of WEEE in Ghana"
The "solid state" nature of products like CRTs will outlive newer devices like LCDs.   But this is a way to take constructive dialog a step farther, and to get away from the "exociticism of the other", and to put Joseph and other Geeks of Color on an equal footing with people making "assumptions" on the repair business.

- - - -  ~~ ~ ~ .. .   Oh, and my dearest reader, the "Anonymous University Researcher", who blasted my post from December 20, 2011 a year ago...  BAN accepted the UNEP research which you "seriously question" and state did not exist.  BAN has dropped its references to the 80-90% exports.  And somehow, you never got around to sending me those "peer reviewed" numerous studies refuting the 11 Facts about E-Waste.  Are you satisfied to leave Joseph Benson in a prison cell?   Or is there something to the point of presumption of guilt after all.   A little bird told me that E-Stewards Enterprises will sever its ties with BAN and Jim Puckett sometime in the next 6 months.

The scary thing is, what if the Lovings of Virginia marriage really turned into a divorce?  About 50% of marriages do, or 40% of first marriages (previous divorce is the leading indicator of divorce, and since it was a first marriage for both, they had a good shot).  If Benson was indeed guilty, would he have tarnished all African businesspeople for all eternity to be banned from buying goods under HR2284?  Does an anecdote or a photo of a bad load justify a trade ban?  How many alcoholics would it take to make Prohibition a good idea?

1 comment:

Biogas Plant in Bangalore said...

It is evident that demand of gadgets will continue to increase because of change in technology, status & style.Man made products have certain life cycle and at the same time natural resources are not in proportion to our need & greed, therefore we must realize that recycling is a parallel industry and we must act faster. I